Religious law given standing in British courts for the first time
On Thursday, the High Court delivered a landmark family law judgement, accommodating religious views on all issues for the first time.
The case of AI v MT saw Mr Justice Baker agree to the referral of all children and money matters to non-binding arbitration by a Jewish religious court, the New York Beth Din.
The wife’s lawyer, James Stewart of Manches, told Spear's: ‘This case is about the respect and courtesy afforded to religious courts; the decision does not diminish judicial authority.
‘It concerns a Jewish couple who agreed that they wanted to utilise the Beth Din for arbitration. They also wanted to convert the Beth Din decision into a court order.
‘Baker J made it clear that binding arbitration was out of the question, but non-binding arbitration would be given weight when exercising his discretion, considering the children’s best interests and approving an award.
‘There were minor adjustments to the Beth Din award, but to a very considerable extent it was upheld.’
The news is significant for HNWs for three reasons. First, it recognises religious courts as being able to assist in finding agreements in the privacy of a discreet tribunal setting.
Second, because the English courts are underfunded and, with the demise of legal aid for divorces in April, overburdened, HNWs put off by added delay and costs will be attracted to the speed and flexibility that arbitration offers, especially in its new empowered state.
And third, it allows religious sensibilities to be respected - as long as they fall within the boundaries of British law.
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